AP Credits and Exemption Exam

Does a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement (AP) test in physics qualify me for taking a higher-level physics course?

No. In order to skip introductory physics course(s) for the purpose of enrolling in a higher-level physics course, you need to take a Physics Exemption Exam that is offered by the Physics Department during firstyear orientation week. AP credits in physics may be counted towards credit for graduation if you choose not to take physics at Wellesley.

Am I required to take the Physics Exemption Exam in order to enroll in a physics course?

No. You don't need to take the Physics Exemption Exam to enroll in one of the first-semester physics courses, Physics 104 or Physics 107.

Do I need to take the Physics Exemption Exam if I have taken AP physics?

Not necessarily. The material covered in PHYS 107 and 108 forms an essential background for all of our more advanced courses. There are relatively few students who end up being exempted from PHYS 107 and even fewer who are exempted from both PHYS 107 and 108. These courses are taught at a level that is higher than that of most high school courses, including a typical AP physics course. The laboratory exercises that accompany these courses are also typically quite different from the laboratories that are found in most high schools. Our experience has been that unless a student has an unusually strong high school physics (and math) preparation, she will be best served by starting out in PHYS 107. Few people report feeling bored or unchallenged in this course. Of course it makes little sense for those students who do have a preparation equivalent to the one offered by PHYS 107 and 108 to repeat these courses. The purpose of the exemption exam is to identify these students and guide them to a course at the appropriate level.

Who should take the Physics Exemption Exam?

This exam is intended for students who have a strong high school preparation in physics and are interested in taking a physics course that has a prerequisite of PHYS 107 (Principles and Applications of Mechanics with Laboratory) and/or PHYS 108 (Principles and Applications of Electricity and Magnetism, and Optics with Laboratory). In other words, you only need to take this exam if you plan to skip our introductory physics course(s) and take a more advanced physics course.

A strong performance on only the classical mechanics section of the exam will exempt you from PHYS 107 and allow you to enter PHYS 108. (PHYS 108 is offered in both the Fall and the Spring semesters, as is PHYS 107.) A strong performance on both parts of the exam will exempt you from PHYS 107 and 108 and qualify you for a 200-level physics course, typically PHYS 202 (Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics, and Special Relativity with Laboratory).

What's on this exam? Do I need to study for it?

The exam consists of two parts, one covers classical mechanics and the other covers electricity and magnetism. The exam is closed book with a 90-minute time limit for each part. One good way for you to decide if it is appropriate for you to take the exemption exam is to look at the sample questions and syllabi. They should give you a sense of what the exam will be like. If you decide to take the exam, we strongly recommend that you spend some time reviewing material from your high school physics course(s).

Does my performance on this exam appear on my Wellesley transcript?

No, it does not. Results of the exam are kept strictly confidential and will appear nowhere on your Wellesley College transcript.

If you have more questions regarding the exam, or if you are unsure about whether or not to take it, please feel free to contact the Chair of Physics Department.